At St. Anthony church in the Bridgeport neighborhood father James McCarthy started SPRED.
"Because the Cardinal Meyer was getting multiple letters this is back in 1960, and so he would send the letters to our office. and I asked my boss if I could begin to do something in terms of catechetical work for persons with disabilities," said Fr. McCarthy.
SPRED provides training and materials adapted for children, teens and adults with developmental disabilities.
"There are 370 parishes. We have about 156 sessions or groups. We call them base communities, and we call that SPRED," Fr. McCarthy said.
Sister Susanne Gallagher is one of the SPRED staff.
"We also have two people who visit parishes to try to help the leadership to know that there are people with special needs in the parish. and we like to help them to develop a group for catechist," said Sr. Gallagher. "We have SPRED in 8 other countries. We have SPRED in about 15 other diocese in the United States," she added.
38-year-old Russell Buckley has been part of SPRED's program since he was 6 years old.
His mom, Paula, saw information posted on a bulletin board.
"So I came and met father Jim, and I told him about Russell. Russell was six at the time, and of course he went into the 6-year-old program. He made communion his first holy communion, then he went into the upper program which was 13. Then he made his confirmation," said Paula Buckley. "Coming here to SPRED he understands."
"He loves Jesus through the SPRED program, he the bible the aired the Bible around Easter Russell wants to watch that every Sunday Father Jim is his mentor when he looks he says he is Moses. So yes this is a wonderful program ... there's nothing like this program," Paula said.
For more information visit: www.spred-chicago.org